Debra Vazquez Memorial Poetry Series honored by Emmy-winning poet Kwame Dawes

Kwame Dawes recites his poetry, which ranged from topics on violence to death to love.

Kwame Dawes recites his poetry, which ranged from topics on violence to death to love.

The students filed in consistently into the auditorium at CF on the evening of Feb. 19. Prevalent professors at CF, the Public Relations department and even the president were in attendance that evening. Why? For the annual Debra Vazquez Memorial Poetry Series, which is held every spring in memory of Debra Vazquez, a past instructor at CF whose life was taken through domestic violence. This year, award-winning poet and current Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska Kwame Dawes was given the opportunity to share his collection of poetry with CF students.

President James Henningsen introduced Dawes as an Emmy Award-winning poet originating from Jamaica, traveling all over the world, to as far north as Canada.

“We here at CF always try to provide students with enriching learning experiences,” said president James Henningsen.

Dawes did just that as he revealed insight into topics such as violence, sexual relations, death and love. His glasses reflected into his tablet as he spoke the words of his poetry, his emotion-filled voice carrying to the back of the auditorium. He started to sing the words of two of his works with a slow and steady voice that filled the room and left it with a pensive silence broken by applause.

His poems ranged from the perfect tree that felt guilt because of the man who was hanged from its branch to a black woman who found pride and dignity after the hurt associated with being abandoned. His poetry was incredibly detailed, especially the one about a fishing trip which graphically illustrates the unfeeling nature in which salmon are captured, used for eggs and either gutted or flung back into the ocean in a state of confusion and shock.

“My body is an antennae,” said Dawes. “People will always say, ‘Oh, I don’t what to write about, I don’t know what to write about,’ but then I will them to write a haiku every day about something they saw or heard or experienced on the way to work, or shopping, and then all of a sudden insight happens. You just have to be extra observant.”

Some poetry is derived from feeling strong waves of certain emotion, such as anger, sadness, or love. For Dawes, poetry is not written when he is feeling a certain way.

“I think I want to write, and then I just do,” Dawes said. “It’s normal for me. Things come to me and I will want to write about it.”

After his reading, Dawes was permitted to host a Q & A where audience members could ask questions. One question was, ‘what advice would you give the younger generation today?’

Dawes explained the importance of traveling. He explained how the world is put into perspective when you are put into a type of minority in another place, another country.

“I actually came to the event today for extra credit,” said student Sarah Lacognata. “But I was hoping it was going to be good, and once he started talking it was.”

One lesson learned from the event was to have patience of what will come, and to enjoy the process of whatever it is you are doing.

“I enjoy the process of seeing what will become,” said Dawes. “I don’t know what the poem will be until it is written, I don’t exactly know what I am feeling until it is done.”

By: Raina Barnett

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